There has been a lot of coverage in the past couple of days over Google’s new privacy policy and Path uploading its customers’ address books onto their servers without permission.

This fence is all that stands between you and a lack of privacy. Too bad it looks like its about to fall apart.

This is something that seems to occur every 6 months or so.  A company pushes the boundaries of user privacy and then backs off until everyone has forgotten all about the controversy.  They then slightly alter their original plan and users think they have won a significant battle for their privacy. The companies argue two things when confronted with blatant breaches in privacy: one is that their new policy will allow them to create better services and, secondly, if you don’t like it, don’t use our product.

Both, in my opinion, are utterly ridiculous.

Let’s use Google’s new privacy policy as an example of both. For those of you have not read the new privacy policy go read it here. For those of you who prefer the cliff notes version:

Google is essentially combining all of its many privacy policies into one that encompasses all 60 of its different services. Not only that, but Google will track all of your actions across the different services and combine that data.

Now I know what your thinking, “Yahya, don’t they already do this?” Yes and no.

You see, before all of the data collected from search was used only in search and all the data from your Android device stayed with that device. Now every service will talk to every other service. Meaning Google can literally track your every move.

They will know when you search from home or when you search from work. They will know exactly where you are at any given time if you’re using an Android device.  Now, Google says that they will not be offering any of this information to third party groups and that you should not be concerned. But you should be.

Google is one of the largest advertising companies on the planet. They will use this information to serve you “relevant” ads. They do not need to sell the information to another ad company because they are the ad company. Google claims that their new policy will help improve their services. In reality it will only help one service: Google’s ad business. The more information Google collects and the better they know you, the more money advertisers will pay to advertise with Google.

This is Google’s Hail Mary pass against their biggest rival: Facebook.  Facebook already knows so much about their users because of voluntary disclosure that ads can be tailored extremely well. Google does not have this kind of data but would love to have it; hence the new privacy policy. The argument that Google’s new privacy policy creates better services is a joke.

Someone is always watching. That someone is probably a Google employee.

Google also argues that they make it very easy for someone to deactivate all of their accounts. This is also a false argument in the sense that it is extremely difficult for someone to completely remove Google from his or her Internet life. From email, searches, documents, videos, and phones, Google is everywhere. There are no real alternatives. Bing doesn’t count. Google owns such a large part of the market that they can potentially do whatever they want and customers will just have to deal with it.

I know that it may seem like I can’t stand Google, or that I am unfairly picking on them. In fact, I think they create some great services that make my life easy. Yes, they are not the only company who collects information on their users. Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft have all gotten in trouble for this, but when your unofficial motto is “Don’t be evil”. I am going to call you out on it, especially when you claim that your actions are in the best interest of your customers.

 

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